Common CKAN Tasks

The majority of common CKAN administration tasks are carried out using the paster script.

Paster is run on the command line on the server running CKAN. This section covers:

Understanding Paster

The basic paster format is:

paster --plugin=ckan <ckan commands> --config=<config file>

For example, to initialise a database:

paster --plugin=ckan db init --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

Getting Help on Paster

To get a full list of paster commands (i.e. including CKAN commands):

paster --plugin=ckan --help

And to get more detailed help on each command (e.g. on db):

paster --plugin=ckan --help db

Position of Paster Parameters

The position of paster parameters matters.

--plugin is a parameter to paster, so needs to come before the CKAN command. To do this, the first parameter to paster is normally --plugin=ckan.


The default value for --plugin is in the current directory. If you are running paster from the directory where CKAN’s file is located, you don’t need to specify the plugin parameter..

Meanwhile, --config is a parameter to CKAN, so needs to come after the CKAN command. This specifies the CKAN config file for the instance you want to use, e.g. --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini


The default value for --config is development.ini in the current directory. If you are running a package install of CKAN (as described in Option 1: Package Installation), you should explicitly specify std.ini.

The position of the CKAN command itself is less important, as longs as it follows --plugin. For example, both the following commands have the same effect::

paster --plugin=ckan db --config=development.ini init
paster --plugin=ckan db init --config=development.ini

Running a Paster Shell

If you want to run a “paster shell”, which can be useful for development, then the plugin is pylons. e.g. paster --plugin=pylons shell.

Often you will want to run this as the same user as the web application, to ensure log files are written as the same user. And you’ll also want to specify a config file (note that this is not specified using the --config parameter, but simply as the final argument). For example:

sudo -u www-data paster --plugin=pylons shell std.ini

Common Tasks Using Paster

The following tasks are supported by paster.

create-test-data Create test data in the database.
db Perform various tasks on the database.
ratings Manage the ratings stored in the db
rights Commands relating to per-object and system-wide access rights.
roles Commands relating to roles and actions.
search-index Creates a search index for all packages
sysadmin Gives sysadmin rights to a named user
user Manage users

For the full list of tasks supported by paster, you can run:

paster --plugin=ckan --help

create-test-data: Create test data

As the name suggests, this command lets you load test data when first setting up CKAN. See Load Test Data for details.

db: Manage databases

Lets you initialise, upgrade, and dump the CKAN database.


Before you can run CKAN for the first time, you need to run “db init” to create the tables in the database and the default authorization settings:

paster --plugin=ckan db init --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

If you forget to do this then CKAN won’t serve requests and you will see errors such as this in the logs:

ProgrammingError: (ProgrammingError) relation "user" does not exist


You can delete everything in the CKAN database, including the tables, to start from scratch:

paster --plugin=ckan db clean --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

The next logical step from this point is to do a “db init” step before starting CKAN again.

Upgrade migration

When you upgrade CKAN software by any method other than the package update described in Upgrade CKAN, before you restart it, you should run ‘db upgrade’, which will do any necessary migrations to the database tables:

paster --plugin=ckan db upgrade --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

Creating dump files

For information on using db to create dumpfiles, see Database Dumps.

ratings: Manage package ratings

Manages the ratings stored in the database, and can be used to count ratings, remove all ratings, or remove only anonymous ratings.

For example, to remove anonymous ratings from the database:

paster --plugin=ckan ratings clean-anonymous --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

rights: Set user permissions

Sets the authorization roles of a specific user on a given object within the system.

For example, to give the user named ‘bar’ the ‘admin’ role on the package ‘foo’:

paster --plugin=ckan rights make bar admin package:foo  --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

To list all the rights currently specified:

paster --plugin=ckan rights list --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

For more information and examples, see Set and Manage Permissions.

roles: Manage system-wide permissions

This important command gives you fine-grained control over CKAN permissions, by listing and modifying the assignment of actions to roles.

The roles command has its own section: see Set and Manage Permissions.

search-index: Rebuild search index

Rebuilds the search index defined in the search_backend config setting. This is useful to prevent search indexes from getting out of sync with the main database.

For example:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

sysadmin: Give sysadmin rights

Gives sysadmin rights to a named user. This means the user can perform any action on any object.

For example, to make a user called ‘admin’ into a sysadmin:

paster --plugin=ckan sysadmin add admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

user: Create and manage users

Lets you create, remove, list and manage users.

For example, to create a new user called ‘admin’:

paster --plugin=ckan user add admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

To delete the ‘admin’ user:

paster --plugin=ckan user delete admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini